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Witton Castle
Bank Holiday Monday 4th
May 2009
by Ian Marshall

Photos by Jon Hodd

Runners weren’t in short supply for this May Day Bank Holiday meeting and there was a rare appearance this year from the 2008 National Point-to-Point Champion jockey Oliver Greenall. He didn’t go home empty handed and the action was thrilling for the crowd. Some light rain in the preceding week, coupled with a little watering, left ground that was officially Good To Firm, Good in Places and I would agree wholeheartedly with this assessment.

A quartet came under orders for the Hunt Members and there was a thrilling finish that resulted in the judge’s verdict of a dead heat between Phairy Storm (Ted Cameron) and Loaded Dice (Richard Smith). It looked a fair decision to most observers and far too close to call one way or the other. Phairy Storm won this race in 2008 and seems best on top of the ground. He was in the box seat jumping the final fence, but Loaded Dice put in a determined challenge and joined him a stride or two before the lollipop. Whilst not a world beater by any means, Loaded Dice does appear willing enough and knuckled down resolutely to get on terms. Lauderdale and Emily Stead in third got tapped for toe from six out and was well beaten. Only three finished.

Phairy Storm (Ed Cameron) and Loaded Dice (Richard Smith) jump the last before finishing with a dead heat in the Members

Richard Smith completed a quick double in the nine runner Intermediate aboard Abandon Ship, who has been knocking on the door all season. Once Richard had stolen a march on the partnership’s opponents at the second last, the gelding ran on well for a four length winning margin. Perennially placed, this was just desserts for a series of sound displays. Held up last by Jamie Alexander, Almost Blue made steady headway from the back of the field to be second. Nearest at the death having travelled strongly, a stiffer test of stamina would appear to be right up his street. Compensation awaits. Third came High Moor and Ian Smith. Although far from disgraced behind the in-form Queenies Girl at Mordon in April, this was arguably a personal best. Accordion Roilelet kept boxing on in fourth. He had taken two minor heats at North Carlton and Thorpe Lodge so this was a good effort. There wasn’t a massive amount between the leading half dozen with Quinta De Lobo fifth and Persian Prince sixth. Persian Prince has a tall reputation and went off a warm favourite. He went on from the fourth fence from the finish, but was struggling approaching the last as others were seeing it out better. Although he picked up a Whitwell-on-the-Hill restricted on firm going last month, Quinta De Lobo doesn’t seem in quite the same mood as 2008. Cnocan Aoibhinn set the pace as normally he does, but faded from four out. He will have a sporting chance if contesting the Bilsdale hunt members at Easingwold at the weekend. Whinny Bank is distinctly out of form.

Abandon Ship (Richard Smith) jumps with a lap to victory in the Intermediate

Following the withdrawal of Champagne Only at the start, a dozen horses were present at flagfall for a hot Restricted that featured several unexposed types and six last time out winners. Chummy’s Double had gone into many notebooks when threatening the improving Miss Sunflower at Easingwold last month until her saddle slipped on the run-in. Thankfully, there was no such bad luck here and Chummy’s Double was barely extended to reach top spot in the hands of John Dawson. She has regained the right track, her fencing is more fluent and the Dawson brothers appear to have got to the bottom of her. She can continue on the up. Runner-up Wantage Road goes well for Jake Greenall and ran on nicely. Chummy’s Double always appeared to have his measure, but Wantage Road couldn’t really be faulted for trying. A winner over 2m4f at Garthorpe, he is likely to ply his trade on the sharper tracks over three miles. Forge Valley, with Guy Brewer in the plate, ran an absolute blinder in third. With no confirmed pace-setter in the field and Forge Valley jumping boldly, he ended up making much of the running. He was swept aside turning in, but battled back to go down fighting. Having claimed a Mordon short maiden last time, Forge Valley dispelled the myth that this trip might stretch him. Go Moss Go whipped them in for the majority of the race and really only found his stride once it was too late. A never nearer fourth was certainly something to build on though after a quiet spell. Rich Hill was made favourite and this imposing customer moved up to dispute at the second last before flattening out. On his initial outing in this country, he had got the better of Miss Sunflower at Dalton Park in March and she has subsequently impressed in collecting a Hornby Castle maiden and an Easingwold restricted. Slightly more cut in the ground may be beneficial for him. Blazing Bull is still pretty green, but wasn’t too far away. Chris Dawson sensibly wasn’t overly forceful on him and he will be a different proposition next year. Totally Beat had the services of Oliver Greenall for assistance and wasn’t unduly knocked about when all the cards were played. The four-year-old comfortably won a 2m4f maiden at Whitwell-on-the-Hill in April and is sure to progress further. Wherethat was making his British debut and will come on for the run.

Chummy's Double (John Dawson) and Wantage Road (Jake Greenall) race to the line to finish first and second in the Restricted

There was a shock in the eight runner Mens Open when the long odds-on Sonevafushi was beaten for the first time in Yorkshire. With Bally Brakes taking up his usual position towing them along, there was no shortage of pace. He backpedalled in the home straight and unfortunately was found to be very lame on pulling up. Sadly, the likeable chestnut has probably run his last race. It was L’Oudon that sprang the surprise. With jockey Guy Brewer having his best ever season, he didn’t lack assistance from the saddle. L’Oudon had a few lengths to find heading to four out, but he circled the field, launched his run down the outside as they levelled up for home and had a decisive turn of foot when the chips were down. He had given Pip Tutty a horror fall at Charm Park on Easter Monday, however he seems to get on well with this pilot and this was their second success of the campaign. Belem Ranger, partnered by Tom Oates, was second and was running on, but couldn’t quite quicken sufficiently to peg back L’Oudon. A Sedgefield hunter chase over 2m4f had gone his way a few weeks ago, but he is equally at home on an easy track between the flags. He has scored at this course in the past. It was another supreme effort from the popular grey and Belem Ranger is likely to have another tilt at a short hunter chase in 2009. Only beaten a couple of lengths in third were Sonevafushi and Jake Greenall. When allowed to dictate, Sonevafushi is imperious, but he always had horses around him on this occasion and there were challengers on all sides. Whilst Sonevafushi undoubtedly has more actual talent than L’Oudon or Belem Ranger, they simply found more for pressure and had a greater will to try their hardest. He will no doubt be back to winning ways soon. In fourth, Forty Shakes held every chance at the penultimate obstacle, but couldn’t lift his game to counter the trio that finished ahead of him. He had chased home L’Oudon at Mordon in March.

L'Oudon (Guy Brewer) jumps the ditch on the way to winning the Mens Open

The Ladies Open was fast and furious, and extremely competitive. A field of 14 went to post and they were quickly strung out like washing as Misty Gem set a searching gallop. Unsurprisingly, she couldn’t keep it up and had dropped back to fifth when she took a tired fall at the last. There was a tremendous performance from Lutin Du Moulin as he ran out a five length winner under the expert handling of Lucy Horner. With Lucy on top, this fellow is a foe to be reckoned with as she gets every ounce of ability he possesses out of him. Biding their time for the most part in about fourth, Lutin Du Moulin was unleashed leaving the back straight and looked too strong as soon as he was given the office. He is expected to be kept on the go whilst in such good heart. Runner-up Keeverfield was the only one to show any inclination to pursue the runaway leader and did exceptionally well to remain in contention. His style of racing lends itself to front running, which he didn’t today, and he is a useful recruit to the British scene. An Irish import, Sam Drake’s mount had a Brocklesby ladies open in the bag in February until crumpling on landing at the third last, before he won a Whittington intermediate. We are likely to hear a lot more of him in 2010. The highly consistent Jimmys Duky (Lucy Bell), a winner at Duncombe Park in February, turned the tables on his Easingwold conqueror Blanding Castle to be third. Jimmys Duky didn’t have the pace to match the front two when things got serious, but gave a good account of himself. He might have another ladies open in him in the next month. Fourth-placed Bobby Buttons didn’t get into it, although very few did, but deserves credit for keeping on even though the race was all but over. It was the most he had shown for a while. The smart Blandings Castle couldn’t go the early pace and was too far adrift to ever get involved. He stayed on throughout the final circuit, but never reached the leaders. Foodbroker Founder never featured and the same could be said for Wilfie Wild.

Lucy Horner offers verbal encoragement to Lutin Du Moulin as they jump the last to win the Ladies Open

Eight horses faced the starter for Division One of the Maiden, which looked the weaker of the two on paper. The honours went to the market leader Eldon Endeavour under Chris Dawson, who drew clear with ease in the closing stages. Never far away, he was always moving with purpose and stamped his authority when asked to go about his business. The opposition won’t have been the strongest at this stage of their careers, but he couldn’t have done it much better. Runner-up Desperate Bob bounced back, leaving his previous lacklustre effort behind. Andrew Glass’s mount had no answer to Eldon Endeavour’s finishing kick, but gave his best. Belmont Bay (Richard Smith) got round in third and made a giant leap forward. The experience won’t be lost on him. In fourth, Diamond Alice is a slow learner, but coming on a little with each race. Oaklands Robbie gave some hope for the future on his first completion. Wasityou dropped away tamely and was found to be lame after passing the post.

Eldon Endeavour (Chris Dawson) and Desperate Bob (Andrew Glass) fight to the finish for first and second place respectively in the first division of the Open Maiden

Division Two of the Maiden was five seconds quicker than the first and had 11 runners. Robin De La Folie was a rather lucky winner, but jumping is the name of the game after all. Chapel House was backed off the boards and he made smooth progress to slip his field at the cross fence. Clear and travelling well within himself, he fell at the third last with the race at his mercy. He had run out at Corbridge a fortnight ago whilst holding every chance too. Robin De La Folie, pushed along by the assured Oliver Greenall at the time, was the benefactor. He was pretty weary with the petrol gauge running low and needed keeping right up to his work to grind out the victory. Robin De La Folie is a free going sort and hadn’t struck me as a girl’s ride on his two earlier tries in points. The stronger handling here paid swift dividends as Robin De La Folie was able to channel his energy in the right direction. Second was Essennbee, with Chloe Kirkby in the saddle, who did close in on the possibly idling victor coming to the last, but could only run on at the one pace on the flat. Essennbee is now a maiden after 14 visits to the racecourse, which tells its own story, but he is a decent schoolmaster. Northern Rambler and Katy Bannon were fortunate to fill third due to others’ misfortunes. It is difficult to know what he achieved when a modest second to Cherryland at Mordon in April. Fourth-placed Red Roxy needs a tight track and has trouble seeing out her races. The promising Teeringa was held and tired in third having raced prominently, when she came down at the final fence. Nothing Left still had a squeak until departing four from home. Red Etosha walked through the open ditch and was immediately pulled up.

Robin De La Folie (Oliver Greenall) jumps the last to win the second division of the Open Maiden

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